FTC Pressures Google For Antitrust Settlement
November 13, 2012

Google Pressured By FTC To Settle Antitrust Probe Or Face Lawsuit

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is pressuring Google to settle an antitrust probe this week or face a lawsuit, Bloomberg News reported on Monday.

The commission has been investigating Google for the past 20 months to determine whether the company abused its dominant market position in Internet search to unjustly compete in separate, but related, businesses. Specifically, the FTC is looking into whether Google rates its own services higher than those of rivals Yahoo and Microsoft.

Citing two sources familiar with the situation, Bloomberg said the FTC has been in negotiations with Google for the past two weeks to try to resolve the matter, although Google has not yet proposed any potential settlements.

The agency has informed Google that it won´t accept any resolution short of a consent decree, and is prepared to take action within the next two weeks, one of Bloomberg´s sources said.

A Google spokesman did not elaborate on any possible negotiations, saying only that the company is working with the FTC.

“We continue to work cooperatively with the Federal Trade Commission and are happy to answer any questions they may have,” said Google spokesman Adam Kovacevich in an e-mail to Bloomberg.

In addition to looking into whether Google ranks its own services higher than those of competitors, the FTC has been investigating whether Google signed exclusive agreements to provide search services to online publishers, and whether it had made it problematic for advertisers to compare data about campaigns running on rival sites, Bloomberg said.

A staff memo sent last month to the agency´s commissioners included a recommendation to issue a complaint for Google´s practice of using customer reviews from other websites to promote its own services on local businesses. The staff also recommended that the FTC issue a formal complaint against Google for abusing patent protections to block competitors´ smartphones from coming to market, Bloomberg´s sources said.

The agency has the option of filing a complaint in its own administrative court or with the federal courts.

During a speech at an antitrust conference in September, FTC Chairman Jonathan Leibowitz said that if the agency decides to move forward in its administrative court, it could wrap up the matter more quickly than it could in federal court.

Any settlement or a formal complaint would require a majority vote of the five commissioners.

Leibowitz said he expects the matter to conclude this year.

Shares of Google´s stock rose 1% on Monday, closing at $665.90.